Under increasing financial pressure from the Web and the decline of print advertising, newspapers and other traditional media outlets have been laying off staff and trying to fill the gap with services such as Journatic—the hyper-local aggregator that uses offshore workers— or simply doing without such things as copy editing. Are there further solutions to that reporting gap? Crowdsourcing journalism through sites like Reddit could be one, but crowdfunding could be another: One journalist in Michigan has raised funding through a Kickstarter campaign so he can travel around the U.S. interviewing people about the upcoming election. Could crowdfunding allow other journalists to do investigative or in-depth projects as well?
I have, no joke, been thinking about this on and off pretty much since I first discovered Kickstarter, as much from a selfish point-of-view as the high-minded theoretical sense. I have done internal math in my head about how much it would take for me to be an independent comics journalist for a year, writing for myself and my own site – whatever that site might be – and whether or not I thought I could raise enough money to do it, leaving the writing gigs for Newsarama, Comics Alliance and Robot 6 (and SpinoffOnline, which isn’t a comic site but does take enough of my time each month that I’d need to drop it if I was to do this properly) without just crippling myself financially in the process. For me, I don’t think the money’s there; I’m not enough of a name, without enough of a readerbase with the kind of disposable income to fund what I’d really need for that period of time, especially because they get enough of me for free online as is (Whether or not my online ubiquity has damaged my “brand” is something else I think about, a lot; that’s something for another day, though). But in the wider, theoretical sense…? I think crowdfunding is definitely a future for journalism, if not the future.
We’re moving away from crowdfunding being some kind of novelty and spectacle to just a fact of the modern Internet, and as soon as that happens, then we’re likely to see crowdfunding for all manner of projects, both creative and otherwise. Whatever you can manage to sell to the Internet at large, in fact.